The Sustainable Shepherd’s Residence (SSR) is a novel, multi-year service learning project executed by students at the University of Tulsa in the Jilin Province of Northeastern China. The SSR is an effort to design and fabricate a dwelling that is manufacturable with local materials on a budget commensurate with local earnings. It utilizes modern sustainable energy methods to bring power to some of the 20 million rural Chinese who live without electricity in one of the world’s harshest climates. Wind power, passive solar heating, photovoltaic battery charging, and biogas technology are all incorporated into a structure that houses a single family and their associated livestock. After completing an assessment trip to the region to inventory health conditions, energy needs, and available materials, students designed a residence that provided greatly improved living conditions for the rural shepherd whilst accommodating the special security issues that remain a challenge in the region. On subsequent return trips, the students worked alongside local craftsmen to build the structure and the sustainable energy components and assemble them into a ‘green model home’. The SSR is currently occupied and visited frequently by farmers from neighboring villages who seek to improve their standard of living using the sustainable techniques on display. This paper focuses on the challenges associated with the fabrication of fairly well understood modern sustainable energy technologies in the face of cultural and materiel difficulties present in an international and rural setting. The competing forces at play include the lack of basic maintenance habits due to long-term absence of privatized machinery ownership and the desire for high-wattage electrical conveniences found in the larger cities. The practical engineering aspects of the design and testing of the SSR energy generating components are considered. Specific topics include the fabrication and modification of two different wind turbines, manufacture and operational testing of a biogas digester, and the design of an integrated residential greenhouse with an aquaponics system capable of year round production.

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